RGB verses CMYK Colours

For the colour printing of your digital files, you need to provide the graphics and image in the optimum colour mode. Many software programs allow you to work with RGB colour or CMYK colour mode. RGB colours or Red-Green-Blue colours are known as the primary colours of the light. This colour combination is represented on your tv or computer monitors. The digital cameras and scanners also create pictures using Red-Green-Blue colour combinations. Red-Green-Blue colour mode should be used while taking photos that need to be seen on a monitor, emails or CD.

All colours of the light spectrum are formed from the primary colours, but monitors can display only a limited colour range from the spectrum able to be seen. Light is sent by the monitor, and the ink recognises only a certain wavelength of colours. The three primary colours are combined together to produce white colour. If the three primary colours are absent, the light will show as black. By combining a variety of intensities of RGB colours, each mixture produces various colours. The monitor of a television or a computer consists of small units called pixels. Every pixel contains three units of light, and each unit represents red, green and blue.

We cannot see individual pixels with the naked eye as they are too tiny. But every pixel is created by the application of correct values of RGB, and without the proper values of the colour units, you cannot see any image displayed on the screen. The values of RGB colours are calculated mainly by three methods. The first method is to set them using different numeric values. The numeric values used for this purpose are the values from 0 to 255, and this is the simplest method of the three.

The second method is the use of hexadecimal notations. This method is mainly used for HTML and other languages of the computer. These notations follow a logical pattern. The hexadecimal notation uses six characters, and these characters are divided into three. The first pair represents the red, the second pair green and the third pair as blue. Each pair is represented by a hexadecimal number (0-9) and the letters (A-F). The third method is the percentage in which a certain percentage represents each colour. The programme translates these percentages into suitable values ranges from 0-255.

CMYK colours or Cyan-Magenta-Yellow colours are subtractive colours, whereas RGB colours are additive colours. Additive colours refer to light, whereas subtractive colours refer to inks, paint or pigment. CMYK mode is used for printing as all kind of printers are using subtractive colours to produce differing colours. When three additive colours are combined, the combination will produce white colour. But when three subtractive colours are combined, the combination produces black. This difference means there is a great diversity between the print and the screen display. Additive colour throws light from the monitor, and if more light is projected from a specific pixel, it will be closer to the pure light. In the case of printer inks, they will absorb light and reflects only the wavelengths of light that is linked with the colour of the ink.

The inks of the printer take away the non-essential wavelengths from the light that falls on the ink. The remaining light will return to the eye, providing the impression of a variety of colours. If you are combining more colours, then more light will be absorbed by the ink and a lesser amount of light will get reflected to your eyes, and that results in darker colour. Black ink produced by the CMYK colours is not a deep black. So you have to add some black ink to get the best results for receiving true black. To receive a stronger variety of a colour, you need to add black in CMYK mode.

And what about the lighter shade of colours? Because white ink cannot be created using CMYK colours, you need to work with the idea that you are printing colour onto white paper. As small dots of ink are used to print images you have to use the inks in a lower percentage to produce lighter shades so that more white colour is visible among the dots. The values of CMYK colours are calculated using four different percentages. The values of each percentage should be between 0 and 100 so that the total percentage of the ink values can be up to 400%. But if the total percentage does reach 400%, the ink takes more time to dry. Therefore, the total percentage of ink should not be more than 300% in CMYK mode.

Both the colour modes have their own limitations. Images created using RGB mode cannot be converted smoothly into CMYK mode due to the brightness of RGB colours. Similarly, CMYK colours can’t be translated to RGB mode as the sharp look of RGB colours is missing in CMYK mode online. This is the reason why RGB colours are used in monitors and CMYK colours are used in printers.

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